No, they weren’t aliens: why the Riverhead landfill remediation project derailed
“The more things change, the more they stay the same. ”
This ancient French expression relates to Riverhead Town Hall. It would take many columns to cover all the shenanigans of the Riverhead Town Hall majority. Where patience, however, is really tested is the mentality of shutting things up, throwing transparency out the window, needlessly shutting down town hall itself, and then denying that it does. has never been closed.
But let’s not stray from the subject of this column. The next few minutes you spend reading this won’t be enough to talk about the unfortunate crew – aka the majority of city councils – we suffer from today. Instead, why not address some of the long-term effects of shadow government, and what it did in the past of Riverhead, and the situation of Riverhead today, and the future of Riverhead?
And what better place than the small budget game the city played with the Riverhead landfill all those years ago under the Janoski administration?
You see, municipal government was growing rapidly, and Supervisor Joe had a lot to do with it, in a positive way. But as the city’s spending increased, taxes had to stay low or Joe’s re-election would be in jeopardy. A quick source of income to reduce taxes: city landfill dumping charges. These fees financed the operating costs of the sanitation service. The trick was to increase revenues to such an extent that they could also support the general fund which pays the city’s operating costs. Because that means no new taxes – and that, in turn, means re-election for another two-year supervisory term. You are like Flynn, as the saying goes.
The supervisor – and a privileged few who knew – decided to bring garbage for our out of town landfill. In addition, Grumman Corp., the maker of the jets, according to reliable sources, has entered into a special dumping deal with the city.
And all that extra solid waste, demolition debris, etc., increased the revenue from batch dumping fees. At the same time, he added tons of tons to the landfill – more than anyone really knows. Our landfill was sort of a seasonal open place, and the charges weren’t bad when you add them up. It was a question of volume. And above all, it helped reduce municipal taxes.
And it was all under the radar. No discussion that is remembered ever took place in a working session, at least not publicly. Seems familiar? Today’s city leaders are so far removed from discussing real business in their working sessions that we can’t even hear an echo.
Then, still under Joe’s mandate, comes New York State. The state passed a law requiring all landfills on Long Island to be closed because they were (and continue to be) threatening to the island’s water supply. The State Department of Environmental Conservation has been tasked with enforcing the landfill law, overseeing closures, and approving alternative plans for solid waste management.
As this state mandate – unfunded, by the way – swept through every community on Long Island, Riverhead officials decided not to just cap the landfill, as was standard procedure. , but rather to pursue a reclamation project. The Riverhead landfill contained a lot of sand which could be used to make asphalt and which could help finance the cost of disposing of the landfill. Landfilled waste would be dug up, sorted, screened, recycled if necessary and disposed of off-site. This would bring in revenue and respect the court-ordered shutdown. And when completed, the landfill would be a passive use park, not a covered landfill that still poses a threat to groundwater and requires regular monitoring in perpetuity.
The city engineers were very excited about the plan. In fact, the DEC state was too. So much so that a solid waste expert from CED even published an article about the big project it was.
And that’s when the stifled, under-the-radar fiscal stabilization arrangement, then in effect for years, exploded in the face of town hall.
Whether it was the salvage project or the simple (not really) capping, the two had a common first step: the garbage had to be removed to a certain level to begin with. And that’s when the shock happened: Riverhead had so much unexpected landfill content to dispose of – tons upon tons more – that the town had even quietly leased acres of adjoining property to one. private owner to bury additional garbage.
A subsequent lawsuit between the city and its consulting engineers resulted in a settlement. This was essentially the direction that the consultants took the city with the landfill decisions. They too were taken aback by the volume of the waste stream coming from outside.
The asphalt project actually got off to a good start, although it was fiercely opposed by asphalt producers from Long Island to Albany, but that’s another story.
Yet when presented with this cleverly concealed reality, the engineers changed their conclusions, and with all that extra volume newly discovered, they urged the city to level off. The lawsuit, BTW, was settled in private, again, behind closed doors. But the city’s contract engineers paid the city something as a settlement.
It is the tens of millions that the landfill problem has cost the city that hurts.
Today, Disturbed Howls are rewriting history and fabricating new “facts” about what happened. There is talk of how the landfill debacle could have been avoided, fueled by disinformation and lies spread both by some elected officials and by those behind fake social media profiles. Some even say that the landfill expense after the Janoski deal was all avoidable, that the extra costs were for ancient artifacts and even, incredibly, aliens. What? They would like you to believe that capping is an easy and inexpensive option.
The reality is that the cap would have required digging up and removing tons of landfill waste anyway, especially the landfilled waste on adjacent leased land. Much should be removed and the rest consolidated into a manageable area to cap and monitor. It’s not like the city could have thrown a blanket over it. Simplistic statements about what could / should have been done demonstrate nothing but the ignorance of the speaker. I won’t speculate on what the artefacts and aliens talk shows.
But don’t take my word for it. Here is an excerpt from a published article written by DEC environmental engineer Carl Fritz after DEC approved the reclamation project:
“One problem with building a ceiling on the landfill was that the landfill had encroached on adjacent property. In order to meet regulatory capping requirements, waste buried on the adjacent property line would have to be excavated and moved. In addition, the side slopes should be re-leveled to meet the DEC closure requirements. The City has agreed to carry out a [reclamation] pilot project in this sector, since it would have to be moved anyway if the City ended up covering the landfill site. Once the pilot project is completed, the City would return to DEC with the results. (Read the full article below.)
Capping was a huge and expensive undertaking to begin with. Poor, abandoned and missing record keeping has compounded the problem on several occasions – as have secret town hall antics. The engineers then juggled. Then they paid a settlement.
But we, the taxpayers, are really the ones who pay, in the form of debts to be repaid, borrowed to effect state-ordered and ultimately court-ordered landfill closures.
Article written by Carl Fritz, NY DEC Environmental Engineer, who was the DEC Monitor for the Riverhead Landfill Reclamation Project. Source: http://www.jconoverjr.com/riverhead%20landfill.htm (Downloaded in 2006.)
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